British history is commonly divided up into periods that are identified by the ruling family of the day. Thus we have the Tudor period and the Stuart period. Some eras are identified by groups of monarchs, such as the 18th century, which is known as the Georgian period because almost all of the monarchs in that century were called George. Some monarchs, however, had such an impact on the country that their names attach to the periods in which they ruled. Thus, Elizabeth I ruled over the Elizabethan era, William and Mary and Queen Anne in the late 16th century gave their names to styles of architecture and furniture. The Victorian and Edwardian eras were the last two periods of British history to be named after the monarch of the day.
Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch in British history. Her reign was so long, and coincided with such a dynamic expansion of British power, technology and culture that the era took her name. The queen ruled the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1901. She was on the throne for 63 years and enjoyed such longevity that her son, Prince Albert Edward, was 60 years old by the time he ascended the throne. He ruled as Edward VII. His reign is known as the Edwardian era and is one of the shortest historic periods.
The term “Victorian” has become associated with old fashioned and prudish attitudes. These stem from the defining social characteristic of the Victorian era and originate with the queen’s own behaviour. On the other hand “Victorian values” encompass a hard work ethic, concern for the poor and support for charities. The Victorian era is characterised as one in which invention and enterprise enabled ordinary people to become wealthy industrialists and leaders of society.
Like the Victorian era, the Edwardian period took its social cues from its monarch. Edward VII was a bon viveur famous for keeping mistresses and indulging in every luxury. The Edwardian era is associated with louche, or rakish behaviour, loose morals and over-consumption. Edward's reign lasted from 1901 to 1910, but the Edwardian era extended a few years beyond the king's death. The end date of the period is sometimes extended to 1912, 1914, 1918 or 1919 (References 6, 8)
The typical impression of Victorian architecture and furniture is one of heavy, ponderous, over-embellished and dark creations. Despite their characteristic modesty, the Victorians built big. This was an era of rapid urbanisation in the UK and so many cities were incorporated during that time, including Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield. This gave rise to a boom in civic architecture, with Manchester Town Hall and Saint Pancras Station standing as prime examples of the trend -- huge, worthy and grim, echoing an historic British architectural style. Edwardians tended to favour French architecture and so much of their architectural heritage appears to be smaller and more delicate than Victorian creations. The Edwardians lived at the beginning of the introduction of domestic conveniences and so the size of home started to reduce in this era. The motor car was particularly embraced by Edwardian gentlemen and many of the classic British car manufacturers, such as Rolls Royce and Morgan, were founded during the Edwardian era.
- Britannia: Victoria
- Britannia: Edward VII
- BBC: What were real Victorian values?
- Information Britain: Edwardian Britain
- RIBA: Victorian buildings
- Building History: Edwardian architecture
- Edwardian Promenade: Edwardian transportation: the car
- UK Cities: Dates of city incorpration - when cities received their city status
- Morgan 3-Wheeler: How the Morgan began
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images